Netanyahu Speaks To The Media About Peace
Netanyahu Speaks To The Media About Peace
by Sarah Ann Haves
In a speech before foreign journalists in Jerusalem on Wednesday night, January 20th, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appealed, once again, to the Palestinians to come to the peace table. “Let’s stop talking about talking. Let’s stop filing pre-conditions. Let’s get on with peace negotiations,” he said, showing his frustration with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “This man doesn’t really want to negotiate. He wants to stop negotiating,” Netanyahu added.
For nine months the Netanyahu government has been trying to jumpstart new peace talks with the Palestinians. For nine months the Palestinians have not only refused to sit down with Israel, but continue to bring up demands for concessions before talks are ever held. “We are ready to begin. I’m ready to begin,” Netanyahu told journalists at the press conference. “I’m prepared for peace. Are the Palestinians ready for peace?”
Netanyahu’s comments come as American peace envoy George Mitchell visits the Middle East again, hoping to bridge the diplomatic and ideological gap that exists between Abbas and Netanyahu. U.S. President Barack Obama has admitted that U.S. expectations were too high to expect that the two men could find a way back to the peace table to solve the conflict. But, it may have been Obama’s blatant demands of Israel, in the beginning of his term, which caused the Palestinians to believe he was on their side, and they could raise their level of demands.
Netanyahu’s Likud party has kept him to Israel’s “red lines” where there is no more wiggle room. Those “red lines” include no compromise on the status of Jerusalem, which Israel says will remain the capitol of the Jewish State; and, a refusal to allow Palestinian so-called “refugees” to reside in Israel, if a Palestinian state does become a reality.
With much chagrin, the Netanyahu government implemented a settlement freeze on new construction in November 2009, which Israel is committed to for nine months, in hopes the peace process will advance. Many Israelis wonder if pressure from the international community will cause Netanyahu to try and extend that freeze.
In the meantime, Israel seems willing to consider a land withdrawal from the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), but not to the 1967 Green Line. Netanyahu and other Israeli government leaders have indicated that such a compromise would be suicidal for Israel, leaving the Jewish State with indefensible borders. Concerned about the overwhelming amount of missiles that have been smuggled through the Egyptian border to Hamas in Gaza, Netanyahu claims that even with Israel’s new anti-missile defense systems, the country is still vulnerable to rocket attacks on its citizens. His answer, spoken publicly for the first time, was for Israel to have a presence on the eastern side of a prospective Palestinian state. This would secure Israel along the Jordan Valley. His words promoted an angry response from Palestinian leaders.
In the months since he became Prime Minister, Netanyahu has been sidelined by Abbas who has spent his time securing the backing of Arab states, as well, as the UN and EU for the Palestinian cause. Abbas has looked to internationalize the conflict, hoping global leaders would impose a solution on Israel within a given timetable. Israel has said this will never work.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu has spent much of his time in office in efforts to help the Palestinians engage in state-building, offering concessions that have not been graciously received. During the press conference he spelled out the various ways Israel has looked to make peace:
(1) Continuing to call for peace talks. (2) Removing hundreds of road blocks and checkpoints. (3) Netanyahu’s willingness to take risks as outlined in his Bar Ilan University speech in June 2009, which formed a national Israeli consensus of the idea of a demilitarized Palestinian state. (4) Temporary freeze on construction of settlements in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recently stated that Israel should not give any more concessions to the Palestinians in order to get the peace process moving forward. On the heels of George Mitchell’s meetings in the region, Netanyahu had his own message for the U.S. mediator, “They should be told fair and square, simple and forthrightly, get into the tent and start negotiating for peace. Let’s stop negotiating about negotiations.”
However, as Americans look towards another year of fruitless efforts by the Obama Administration to affect change in the Middle East, there may be a call for less diplomatic U.S. involvement. Obama’s pre-occupation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may not be well-received by a U.S. population that sees no progress, and is dealing with pressing issues at home. Americans might just demand that Obama focus more on his domestic problems, while letting the Israelis and Palestinians fight it out alone.
“I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.
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